The Delhi High Court on Tuesday, June 15, granted bail to student activists Devangana Kalita, Natasha Narwal and Asif Iqbal Tanha who were arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in a case related to the Northeast Delhi violence in February 2020.
The bench, led by Justices Anup J Bhambhani and Siddharth Mridul, held that prima facie, no offence under sections 15, 17 or 18 UAPA is made out on the basis of the material on record in the present case against the three, Bar and Bench reported.
The bail is conditional on the furnishing of personal bonds of Rs 50,000 and two local sureties. Further, the court has also ordered the three to submit their passports and “not indulge in activities that would hamper their case”.
Natasha Narwal, who recently lost her father to COVID-19, is a PhD scholar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Devangana Kalita is also pursuing her PhD from the same university. Both are associated with Pinjra Tod, a collective of students fighting for women’s rights.
Both are in custody since their arrest by Delhi Police in May 2020.
Also read: Delhi Riots: Bail Orders Narrate a Saga of ‘Doubtful’ Witnesses, ‘Concocted’ Evidence
Asif Iqbal Tanha, who is also in jail since May 2020, is a final year student of BA (Hons) Persian at the Jamia Millia Islamia.
While Devangana is facing charges in four cases, Natasha has been charged in three cases. According to their lawyer, Adit Pujari, both have been granted bail in all cases and will be released from jail, as reported by The Indian Express.
The HC has also directed the three to submit their phone numbers to the local SHO and inform the SHO in case of change of residence from the place mentioned in their prison records, the report added. They have also been asked to not attempt contact with any of the prosecution witnesses in the case.
All three were arrested in cases relating to the violence which had shaken northeast Delhi in between February 23 and 26, 2020. following the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests. The violence had left at least 53 dead and injured hundreds of other.
The riots had led to several questions being raised about the inaction of the Delhi Police in controlling the clashes as well as its alleged complicity in some instances of violence, particularly in the minority neighbourhoods, which was also reported by an investigation by the Amnesty International.
Also read: Police Claims Vs Gaping Holes: Inside the Third Chargesheet in Delhi Riots' ‘Conspiracy’ Case
The Delhi Police has claimed that the riots was the result of a “pre-planned” and “pre-meditated”
conspiracy to incite violence amid the anti-CAA protests. It had also claimed that the accused were part of “a larger conspiracy to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government”. Several other students and activists have been arrested on the basis of similar charges of “conspiracy”.
However, while the police repeatedly failed to produce any evidence relating Kalita, Narwal and Tanha to the incitement of violence, the three were denied bail several times by the courts earlier. Kalita had been granted bail by the Delhi HC in three cases, but refused to grant bail in one case.
In January 2021, a sessions court while denying bail to Kalita had said that the entire alleged conspiracy, beginning from December 2019 when roads were intentionally blocked roads to cause inconvenience and disruption of the supply of essential services, resulting in violence, and then leading to the February 2020 riots would be covered by the definition of a "terrorist act".
The Indian Express reported that Tanha had challenged a trial court’s October 26, 2020 order dismissing his bail application on the ground that he allegedly played an active role in the entire conspiracy with reasonable grounds for believing the allegations to be prima facie true.
He was recently granted a two-week interim custody bail to attend his backlog examinations at the university.
Narwal had been granted an interim bail recently to attend her father’s last rites after he succumbed to COVID-19. While she had requested for bail on May 8, the court heard the case on May 10 by which time her father had already passed away. This had again drawn a huge outcry over the court’s decision coming too late.
Also read: Delhi Violence: Court Rejects Pinjra Tod Activist Devangana Kalita's Bail Plea in UAPA Case